Monday 23 October 2017 / 11:27 AM

JAGS’ SEASON OF PROMISE IS A DUMPSTER FIRE

Midway through a Thursday night game, the promising young Jaguars – playing against a team struggling to maintain standing in the division – looked much more of the latter than the former.

The middling defense, coupled with a flat-out bad offense, has become a cultural norm in Jacksonville, a team pegged by many as talented enough this season to finally contend for a spot in the postseason.

And that initial prediction was a reasonable one to make. The defense had added a large influx of talent, and many of the younger players that performed so well a season ago were getting an entire offseason to work, get stronger, and learn the scheme. The holes in the team could finally be patched, and the coaching staff could finally string together ‘their’ players.

But that never happened. After showing tangible results in the first game against Green Bay, a slugfest that saw the Jags’ defense stand toe-to-toe with the Packers, and the offense perform well enough to win, Jacksonville looked ready to compete; ready to challenge Houston and Indy.

But since that season-opening win, outside of successive wins over the struggling Colts and Bears, the holes on the Jaguars from a season ago have become cavernous craters. The defense, infused with some better talent to fix the front line and secondary a year ago, has struggled to maintain consistency.

They are mistake-prone, with their top defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. leading the NFL in penalties. The pass rush is weak, and the secondary has been ravaged behind a rush that gives quarterbacks way too much time. Some games, the Jaguars are able to generate disruption, but it’s far from consistent.

And, as we saw on Thursday night, the special teams also have struggled. Kickoff returns are yielding big returns and breakdowns from their young coverage players are giving opposing teams great field position.

But the underlying problems for the Jaguars rest on the offense. The rushing attack has been one of the rare highlights for an offense that can’t move the ball, but even that hasn’t been consistent. The offensive line has been patchwork at best, being banged up and undisciplined in blocking schemes. Teams are consistently getting pressure on Blake Bortles by rushing just three, and it’s disrupted the passing game.

But nothing has disrupted the passing game more than Bortles himself, who’s endured a regression this season that’s made the coaching staff in Jacksonville look like they are either squandering talent, or picked the wrong guy. Bortles has been down-right bad, tossing INTs and forcing bad throws at a rate that could very conceivably lead to him being benched within the next couple of weeks.

The 0-3 start, and the latest 0-2 skid to drop the team down to 2-5, has Gus Bradley’s Jags sitting at an atrocious 14-41. Vocal owner Shad Khan has been steadfast to defend Bradley and the staff, but after going down 27-0 to the Titans, Khan again found himself addressing the media and saying Bradley wouldn’t be fired.

But Khan has sat in on team meetings all week, and conducted a tense meeting with players and coaches after Thursday’s loss. And somewhere, there finally was a small breaking point. Addressing the media Friday after the game, Bradley doubled down that his staff was safe, saying he didn’t expect any changes in his staff. But just hours later, the Jaguars announced the firing of Greg Olson, the offensive coordinator.

To make matters worse, the following day saw reports that Jaguars offensive starters were complaining that Bortles had lost the locker room and that, “we have the wrong quarterback.”

And just like that, the last scapegoat before a coaching change was eliminated, with many around the NFL speculating that the Gus Bradley tenure in Jacksonville is over. But even more surprisingly, the Blake Bortles era is being called into question.

I’m not sure if a change in coach can help a locker room that’s already lost faith in it’s captain, but it’s time for the ownership to try something – and try it now.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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